The Hamas Gamble
For the aspiring Muslim mass-murderer, there’s no better place to carry out his “marvelous act of glorious martyrdom” (the description from the official television channel of the “moderate” Palestinian Authority) than the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem. In addition to the always-available pool of defenseless victims (that’s how true warriors of Jihad like it), the headquarters of most of the international news media representatives are located just a few blocks away. Add to that the fact that the only fatality from the blast was an elderly British woman, and chances are you’ve probably heard and saw much more about the Jerusalem bombing than about dozens of rockets and mortars which were falling this week on the homes and fields of Israeli civilians whose misfortune is to live next door to the Iranian military base called the Gaza Strip.
Too bad; in many ways, the explosion in Jerusalem is a red herring. It was not the first pipe bomb in the capital – the previous one had gone off in a rubbish bin a few weeks ago and took off the hand of a municipal garbage collector. In a city where tens of thousands of free-ranging citizens are exposed every day to Islamist propaganda of hate, it’s impossible to prevent some of them from acting on their religious impulse to fight the Jews. This kind of terrorism, like the gruesome murders in Itamar, does not require elaborate infrastructure or outside assistance – just a relentless validation of the deed, a moral certainty that killing unarmed Jews is what a true Muslim and a Palestinian is supposed to do.
Not so the current “escalation” at the Israeli South. Here, the incessant barrage of rockets and mortar shells isn’t an expression of individual hatred – it is a strategic move on behalf of the Islamofascist gang that rules the Gaza Strip. By its own nature, Hamas is incapable of keeping the peace for long periods – after all, if it abstains from the active jihad against the Jews what legitimate basis does it have to keep the Gazans in their misery? In fact, Hamas’ “restraint” had prompted some splinter groups and armed clans to declare their intention to wage their own “holy war” against Israel. While clearly not suicidal, Hamas’ leadership would want to erase the deterrent established after the “Cast Lead” mini-war in 2008, and force Israel to acquiesce again to a steady stream of rocket attacks against its Southern cities limiting itself to a symbolic response. This way they can preserve their jihadist credentials with impunity.
In an international atmosphere where the conscious targeting of Jewish civilians is viewed as a legitimate tool of “national liberation”, Hamas has all the reasons to be optimistic about its chances of success. To begin with, for the first time in its history it has Egypt firmly in its corner. This week, the new Egyptian Foreign Minister had created an implicit linkage between Egypt’s adherence to the peace treaty with Israel and the resolution of non-existent “humanitarian crisis” in Gaza. Currently the only thing that prevents the new rulers of Egypt from throwing the border with Gaza wide open is their cynical desire to present Israel as an “occupying power” with humanitarian responsibilities, despite the fact that Israel has no control and no presence within the Strip. And, since the opening of the Rafah border crossing will give Gazans an opportunity to escape, but the weapons for jihad are coming in through the tunnels unobstructed anyway, Hamas is perfectly happy to wait. Considering that the prevention of smuggling is a clear-cut Egyptian commitment both according to UNSC resolution 1860 and the peace treaty with Israel, Egypt is making its choices clear already.
The other source of optimism for Hamas is the ever-growing alienation between Washington and Jerusalem. Just as the Obama administration was unable to formulate a clear demand for the new government in Egypt to commit itself to peace with Israel, it was strangely reluctant to quash the crazy talk about “restoring Palestinian unity” which would legitimize Hamas. Moreover, the administration, which has repeatedly verbally abused Israel for sins real and imagined, has been curiously reluctant to give offence at all to any Palestinian factions. They have cowardly attempted to ignore the naming of a square after the mass-murderer Dalal Mughrabi, and when the Israeli Navy intercepted yet another vessel loaded with Iranian weapons for Hamas, the State Department rebuked Iran, but had nothing to say about the Palestinian recipients of the deadly cargo, preferring instead to talk about unnamed “terrorist groups”. Smuggling weapons is a crime, but arguably less heinous than the deliberate targeting of peaceful civilians with those weapons. And yet the State Department spokesman never mentioned Hamas, as if the administration was determined to ignore the obvious connection, and give the Gaza gang of war criminals the benefit of the doubt.
Of course, now with United States fighting the civil war in Libya, the last thing the administration needs is a full-scale Israeli retaliation against Hamas. Witness the condolence call Obama made to Netanyahu, pointedly praising him for “relative restraint” in response to the attacks from Gaza. For the Israeli leader, who, despite his election promises to “destroy Hamas”, had in the past been very reluctant to use force, Obama’s caution was welcome, because it gives him some ammunition to fend off the demands for a proper retribution from within his own government. Nevertheless, when the inevitable will happen and one of the rockets will achieve its murderous purpose, Netanyahu won’t be able to hold back. In the end, just as it was with the UN resolution about the perfidy of the Jewish settlements, the administration will be forced by public opinion to back Israel in its defensive war against Hamas. In its efforts to avoid involvement and withhold judgment, America risks to only embolden Hamas further, making confrontation virtually inevitable.